El Tazumal El Salvador. An Iconic Mayan Archaeological Site

By Karla Ramos  |  Apr 16th, 2022
El Tazumal El Salvador Mayan Ruins
El Tazumal Archaeological site in El Salvador.

El Tazumal El Salvador is a Maya archaeological site in Chalchuapa. The Tazumal pre-Columbian ruins are part of the impressive Chalchuapa archaeological zone. It was the first archaeological park created in El Salvador, which is among the oldest in Central American.

Before the Europeans arrived in what is now known as Central America, the Mayan civilization was one of the dominant and impressive cultures that thrived in the area.

El Tazumal Mayan Ruins.

After their collapse, the Maya Indians left many fascinating architectural remains scattered all over the region. One of those impressive sites is the El Tazumal Mayan ruins in El Salvador.

Even though the Tazumal ruins are not as impressive as those found in Guatemala or Belize, they are worth visiting and exploring; they offer a great insight into Salvadoran history.

Visiting the El Tazumal Archaeological Site

The El Tazumal ruins are a big part of the historic Salvadoran heritage and culture. Exploring and appreciating this site is worth doing; it is not that far from larger cities and smaller colorful towns.

These Mayan ruins are in the city of Chalchuapa, about 75 kilometers from San Salvador and about 14 kilometers from Santa Ana. Smaller towns part of the La Ruta de Las Flores are also near this archaeological park.

It is recommended that a visit to the El Tazumal ruins be a part of visiting other Mayan ruins in the area, such as San Andres, Casa Blanca, or Joya de Ceren. They are some of the best Mayan ruins in El Salvador and are not near each other.

If you are visiting the Salvadoran Mayan ruins o for the first time or don’t know the area, it is better to use the services of a Salvadoran Tour Company familiar with the ruins and the locations.

El Tazumal El Salvador
Maya Statue. Photo by Roberto Ortiz.

El Tazumal History

Archaeological studies have shown that El Tazumal was inhabited from the Classic period to the Post Classic period. Also, Tazumal had links to other regions such as central Mexico, the northern Yucatan Peninsula, and even lower Central America.

Historians believe that Tazumal was constructed between the end of the Late Pre Classic and the start of the Early Classic.

Furthermore, they think that the building of Tazumal was disrupted by the eruption of the Ilopango volcano, which is now a volcanic caldera.

Evidence also demonstrates that the population of Tazumal coexisted with the Pipil Indians from the Classic through to the Early Postclassic periods, until at least 1200 AD.

The evidence also shows that the Pipil influence may have been due to trade with the nearby Pipil populations rather than a direct Pipil presence in Tazumal.

Historians believe the archaeological site got its name from the farm or state that existed in this location.

The land where Tazumal was located was in private hands until the Salvadoran government purchased it.

In April 1952, the Tazumal museum opened its doors; since then, El Tazumal has been a top destination for education and tourism.

El Tazumal Structures

The El Tazumal structures are an extraordinary ceremonial complex that shows the ingenuity of the Maya people.

It is believed that Tazumal had links with the city of Copan in Honduras; this is evident because of the architecture, sculpture, and ceramics found at the archaeological site.

Tazumal Mayan Ruins
Tazumal Mayan Ruins. Photo by El Salvador Travel

Structure B1-1

This B1-1 structure is the main pyramid in the El Tazumal archaeological site; it overlooks the entire complex.

The B1-1 structure was rebuilt by Stanley Boggs. He rebuilt it upon a basal platform, which he called, the Great Platform; it measures about 73 by 87 meters. It is believed that structure B1-1 was developed from a central temple with platforms on each side.

On the western platform, the B1-1 structure supports another structure known as the Temple of the Columns, which is also a favorite structure to see and appreciate.

B1-1 is the most popular attraction people come to see in Tazumal; also, it is the face of the ruins in the public eye.

Structure B1-2

According to experts, structure B1-2 dates back to the Late Classic Period; this structure is to the Southwest of the main pyramid or B1-1 structure.

The B1-2 structure faces west, and it has three stepped levels standing on a low platform. The pyramid measures about 82 by 82 feet and reaches about 22 feet in height.

Structure B1-3 and B1-4

The structures B1-3 and B1-4 are the two principal structures that constitute the ballcourt area. The excavation done in Tazumal during the first decade of the 21st century discovered the floor of an I-shaped ballcourt.

The Temple of the Columns Structure

The temple of the Columns structure is in the western platform of Structure B1-1. It had two identically sized chambers, separated by a space with two columns.

Tazumal Sculptures and Artifacts

Many sculptures and artifacts were found in the El Tazumal; they date back to the Pre classic Period. These artifacts and sculptures have similarities to artifacts found in central Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.

The sculptures and artifacts from Tazumal can be seen and appreciated at the local Stanley Boggs museum in Chalchuapa or the anthropology museum in San Salvador.

Archeologis Stanley Boggs

Archeologist Stanley Boggs is credited with saving this site from increasing destruction; he worked on excavating and restoring the area from 1942 to the early 1950s.

During the initial examination of the site, Boggs discovered that the main pyramid and other structures were being damaged.

Rocks and soil from within the area and the structures were being excavated for new constructions.

Stanly Boggs created a plan and blueprint of how to structure the site, excavate it, restore it, and prevent it from disappearing.

Boggs was heavily criticized because he used cement during the renovation of Tazumal. Nevertheless, his work generated interest on the site, avoiding what otherwise would have been its gradual decay.

Mayan Ruins El Tazumal in El Salvador

El Tazumal El Salvador is a fantastic archaeological place to learn about the Maya culture. So, if you ever get the chance, visit Tazumal in the municipality of Chalchuapa! It is one of the best Mayan ruins in El Salvador.